What is Fear?
Fear is an uncomfortable and sometimes nauseating emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is a threat, dangerous, or likely to cause pain.
It is as universal and inherent as joy and happiness or anger and sadness. We’ve all felt it at some point in our lives.
Fear often feels like a crippling mess. While the pre-match stomach full of butterflies and jitters are perfectly normal, they are still uncomfortable. The rush of emotions before competition is expected, and is often a combination of our minds and bodies preparing for competition.
But what about when that fear is freezing? Where does that fear come from?
Fear is often found in the absence of confidence and can shut down competitors, leaving them frozen by the possibilities of things that might not even happen. That fear comes from many places, with one of the most common being doubt. Instead of being excited or ready, the nerves can becomes so much athletes are afraid to compete, afraid to get injured, and afraid to lose.
What makes unchecked fear so dangerous is that it often takes something small and insignificant and makes it more than it is; it makes monsters out of shadows and mountains out of molehills, keeping us from pursuing greatness from boogymen of our own minds.
Even worse, fear can stop us from looking at what God can do, and has us focused on what is immediately in front of us.
But fear can also be a healthy thing. The bible says in Proverbs 9:10 says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…”. So why is this kind of fear different?
We know the fear that is a powerful, primal motivator and an icy force that can freezes us dead in our tracks.
How can we overcome it?
What does the word say? And who are the biblical examples that overcame fear?
Let’s Dive in.
Facing Fear Head on – Keep Walking
Previously, we talked about Walking With Confidence, and what that can look like for christian athletes. The biblical hero Joshua gives us a great example of what to do in the face of fear: relying on the Lord and remaining dauntless.
After Moses’ time, Joshua was a selected to become leader of the children of Israel after their Exodus from Egypt, and was leading his people to the promised land.
On the way there, of course, they faced opposition. Their trip to the promised land came to a halt with the Walls of Jericho stood firmly in the way. (look to Joshua 6:1-25 for the full story)
I’d imagine fear setting in at that moment, much like the fear that sets in when you have a tough draw at a tournament. The people who had been taking thousands of steps in their journey were doubtful of their next few because of their opponent, and we know doubt and fear are closely tied. In spite of the opposition, Joshua followed through with what God had instructed him to do and took down the walls of jericho.
In a wrestling tournament you might face someone with an amazing record, some hammer from a legacy or team of studs. When you face those “walls” of tough odds and big competition, fear and doubt do little to bring those walls down. What God instructed Joshua to do was to take his men and continue to do what they had been doing: march on!
Think about it: we can all think of matches where someone who we would not have guessed could do it did it. Where the underdog, some lower seed comes through and upsets the favorite through what looks like could only have been a miracle.
Fear is often like that wall, an obstacle that appears insurmountable and impossible to overcome, but when you know what to do fear can’t stop you. When you have a plan, and execute it well fear falls flat. Keep walking.
Speaking of underdogs and upsets, not bigger or more famous upset comes than in the story of David and Goliath.
Live With Fear – Aim for the Head (and Don’t Hesitate)
The story of David and goliath is one that I love for many reasons; it’s applicable to so much of life!
Even mainstream media, which is typically wary of religious stories or themes, references this biblical story often.
Although the what of the story is well known, an often overlooked aspect of this commonly known story, however, is how David viewed his opponent.
Remember that David had been a shepard for a good part of his life at this point, which means he spent plenty of time guarding his animals from threats including wild animals like Bears, Lions, and other predators. David faced fear daily, so what was a Giant man to a lion or a bear?
David knew better than to let fear rule him, and knew how to properly estimated his opponent. He knew he had to take him seriously, but was also sure there was a way to win: he had a shot, even if it was a small one.
Goliath on the other hand, the lifelong warrior and clear favorite, underestimated his opponent. He taunted and prodded when he should have paid attention to the sling in David’s hand. His oversight lost him this match and his head (it also might’ve helped that david had the God of the universe on his side).
Both David and Goliath had learned to move past fear in their daily lives, but while David stayed respectful of his opponent and put his faith in God, Goliath underestimated his opponent and put his faith in himself. A healthy touch of fear keeps you respectful and on your toes.
A little fear is healthy – What about healthy fear?
“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Proverbs 9:10
The kind of fear Proverbs 9:10 (and 1:7 of the same book) refers to is a kind of respect.
The way that you would respect an attempt to ascend El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a calm but dangerous wild animal, or the cautious to put out a campfire so it can’t become a raging one: fear of the Lord is healthy.
A little fear keeps us from making poorly evaluated choices or living lazily. Fear of losing a loved one can drive you to taking active time to appreciate them, and fear of a big dog keeps you from standing still when it’s chasing you. Fear in those moments can be a good thing, and a touch of fear keeps you respectful of your opponent the way David respected the size and skill of Goliath.
A little fear of your competition before a match week can wake you up in practice and remind you to always outwork your opponent.
In wrestling, respecting your opponent is key, as is respecting the tactics of the enemy and being aware of the traps he might lay, but fear and respect is reserved for the Lord.
Mindset matters – Don’t Be ruled by Fear
So we know a little fear is not a bad thing, but God is the most important thing to fear. We also know David shows us that we can encounter fear everyday, and that Joshua reminds us to continue to walk in the face of fear. What about when nothing but fear is on our minds?
Verse 17 of 2 Timothy chapter 1 says that “God has not given us the spirit of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind.”
What this verse is pointing out the about the Spirit of fear, is that it is not from God. Fear as an emotion or state of being is not something God has given us. It also highlights that the spiritual state of fear, or mindset of fear, is not from Him.
A moment verses a mindset is and important difference to make.
Having moments of fear is not uncommon or even a big issue, it is when you are ruled by fear that it becomes a problem.
You see “a spirit of fear” refers to a heart and mind oriented towards and based in fear. God has not given us that, and we are instead given a spirit of love, of power, and sound, reasonable thinking. A fearful heart and mind are not from God, so rebuke it. When fear that tells you that you aren’t good enough or that you don’t deserve to be where you are, remember that your God has overcome it.
Fear has no place when you know who is on your side.
Our God is Greater – The game is rigged
When we know Who we are and Whose we belong to, the fear can’t help but dissipate. For competitors and christians alike it means fear for the results is removed because our value is secure in Christ.
If we lose a match or drop out of a tournament, we are still loved by our God. So why not go for it? Why not have fun, why not open up and look for openings?
If we fall down like Peter or make mistakes in our walk like Paul we are still loved and grace and mercy still abound.
It all belongs to God anyways – the medals and accolades and records and beyond, and if it all belongs to God than we can never lose it. If it is all God’s than we can never lose.
So cast your worries and fears on Him, cause the battle against fear is already won.
What do you think about fear? Are you struggling with fear? Would you like to more about overcoming fear or performance anxiety?
Retweet and use the hashtag #faithoverfear if this encouraged you!
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– Kalann Washington